Philippines working with Malaysia to resolve standoff

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Friday, February 15, 2013

MANILA -- The Philippine Government is currently coordinating with Malaysia to resolve a standoff in Sabah allegedly involving a group of 100 armed Filipinos from Mindanao.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing on Friday in Malacanang that the government and military officials are working with their counterparts in Malaysia to determine the situation.

“Katulad ng sinabi ng DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), we are trying to ascertain the facts that are attendant to the story. The Philippine Embassy in Malaysia had already dispatched our police attaché to that particular area to see kung ano an ‘yung nangyayari and we continue to monitor the situation,” Valte said.

She said the Palace received information from the Department of National Defense that the 100 Filipinos involved in the standoff were not armed.

She also said the Philippine Government is ready to provide assistance to those involved in the standoff after the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia has made a thorough assessment of the situation.

“As a general rule, tungkulin ng ating pamahalaan na tulungan… to help extend assistance to any Filipino abroad where ever they may be. At this point, however, we would like to ascertain the facts first,” she said.

In a statement, the DFA said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman called Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario Friday morning to assure that the Malaysian Government is addressing the standoff.

The Malaysian Government is conducting negotiations "to encourage them to leave peacefully, for which the Secretary expressed his appreciation," the statement added.

"It was also established that our Armed Forces’ chief-of-staff and the Malaysian Military chief were able to clarify that the activity of this Filipino group was not sanctioned by the Philippine Government," it furthered.

Secretary del Rosario sought the assurance of the Malaysian authorities to ensure that the rights of those Filipinos, who are permanent residents in Sabah and who may be among the group, are respected.

The DFA urged concerned individuals to return to their homes and families.

Increased patrols and tighter security measures have been put in place in waters off Tawi-Tawi and adjoining islands, the DFA said.

Malaysian authorities said an armed group of 100 Filipinos claiming to be members of the royal armed forces of the Sultanate of Sulu entered Sabah and reportedly forced villagers out of said area. They also demanded that they should not be expelled from the state.

The gunmen had been cornered by security forces and Malaysian authorities are negotiating for them to leave the area peacefully.

The Philippines has been claiming much of the eastern part of Sabah as part of the Sultanate of Sulu that was leased to the British North Borneo Company in 1878.

In 1963, Great Britain transferred Sabah to Malaysia. The Sultanate of Sulu claimed that it was a violation of the Sabah Lease of 1878. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

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